Could Seasonal Affective Disorder Be Affecting You?



One cloudy and cold winter day (many moons ago), my BFF and I were sharing a delightful pot of coffee.  As always, we were chatting about everything and anything. However, being my BFF, she picked up on the fact that I wasn’t completely tapped into the conversation. When she asked if I was feeling okay, I told her that I was “just feeling a little bit off.” In order to fully understand my answer, she asked if I could provide a clearer explanation about what I actually meant by that. I veered off onto a big rant that I was feeling irritable and tired. I had lost interest in things I normally enjoyed doing. I had difficulty concentrating on anything. I couldn’t sleep and had constant carb cravings. When I realized how dramatic my rant appeared, I waved my hands in the air and made an admittance out loud to myself that I had just become plain lazy! My dear friend, with an obvious look of concern, refused to accept that as the final verdict.  She tried to redirect my train of thought by offering loving words of encouragement. I just wanted that conversation to end as my brain was swirling with confusion from trying to analyze the situation.  With every ounce of my being, I forced out a big laugh and exclaimed “It’s just the January blahs! I’ll be fine!” From there, I was able to quickly and gladly change the topic of conversation. We never had another conversation about my blahs again that winter. Of course, my friend would occasionally ask me how I was doing. I always assured her everything was great, but… things were not so great. I was totally baffled by what I could possibly be experiencing. I was unable to articulate to anyone on how I was really feeling. I kept it to myself, hoping that whatever it was, it would just go away! Trying to function throughout that winter felt like I was wearing concrete shoes. Putting one foot in front of the other was a real struggle for me. When spring arrived, I was relieved that the spring in my step returned!  I actually felt normal again!  Whatever that crazy winter was all about, I never wanted to experience another like it again!

That story took place many years ago. Since then, through self awareness, I realized that I was experiencing similar symptoms every winter. By doing my own personal research, I discovered that I was suffering with an illness called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD was not talked about back in the times when my friend and I were sharing that pot of coffee. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a type of depression that’s related to the changes in the seasons-generally begins in the fall and rides through the winter. Due to the shorter, colder days and lack of sunlight, a person can experience various symptoms such as I had described to my friend. Although men are not immune to SAD, it is more common in women. For some people, SAD can be a serious debilitating mental illness.

I can honestly and very gratefully say that what I have experienced with SAD is a very mild type. Through self awareness and educating myself on this topic, I understand why this could easily happen to me. When our sunny seasons are here, I am the outdoorsy type-always on the go. When winter arrives, I don’t get the regular sunlight or exercise that my body requires. When winter arrives it’s time to add the Vitamin D supplements and up the Omega 3’s. During the summer, I am more likely to prepare a salad and fresh local produce that is readily available. During the winter months, my diet changes. I lean towards heavier comfort foods, especially during those dark cold winter evenings. It would be very easy for me to crash on the sofa for the evening, and just get lost in the world of television and Facebook. I limit myself on those times. When I choose to relax by doing so, I am relaxing in the warm glow of my Himalayan pink salt lamp. Seven days a week I maintain a consistent bedtime and wake up routine. I have actually learned to appreciate and enjoy my quiet time during the winter months. It is a time I am able to become more attuned to my spiritual beliefs and practices. Feelings of great accomplishment are always followed by unfinished projects that finally are completed. I always seek out learning opportunities (locally and on-line). Possibilities of new dreams and adventures are always explored. Winter can be a wonderful thing!

My only intention for today’s blog is to share my own personal journey and what has worked for me. It is not any form of diagnosis nor recommendations for others. SAD is a serious illness that medical professionals recognize as a legitimate mental disorder. If you believe you are struggling with SAD, you have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. Speak to your doctor.


Jennifer Doherty

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